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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Governing Chechnya

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The Chechen parliament's endorsement of Ramzan Kadyrov as the new prime minister of Chechnya smacked strongly of Soviet times.

It took the 39 parliament members less than an hour Saturday to debate Kadyrov's candidacy before they unanimously supported him, if the word debate can be used at all to describe the words of praise that the verbose deputies heaped on the republic's strongman.

Most of them then accompanied Kadyrov to the offices of Chechen President Alu Alkhanov, who promptly signed an edict confirming the 29-year-old's ascension.

Kadyrov had served as first deputy prime minister under Sergei Abramov since May 2004, becoming acting prime minister after Abramov was injured in a car accident outside of Moscow last November.

The replacement of Abramov by Kadyrov formally completes the de facto Chechenization of power in the republic by the Kremlin. Once dominated by appointees from Moscow, many of them career public administrators, the Chechen government is now comprised almost exclusively of ethnic Chechens, including former rebels such as Kadyrov.

This could be interpreted as a sign that the Kremlin now trusts Chechens, including former rebels who fought two wars against Russia, even more than in Soviet times, when Moscow would almost always keep an ethnic Russian as No. 2 in the local administration.

Kadyrov -- who also managed to muscle out his rivals in the struggle last year for the chair of the local United Russia branch -- is now even better positioned to become the president of Chechnya once he turns 30 in October. This is the minimum age for president under the Chechen constitution.

Alkhanov may have to follow the example set by Abramov, who said last month that he was resigning to make way for Kadyrov.

Kadyrov's clout has grown to such an extent that Moscow may have little choice but to acquiesce to his further ascent to power in exchange for his loyalty and the loyalty of the security forces that he controls.

Kadyrov's forces, made up mostly of former rebels, have been accused of widespread abuses of the civilian population, but they have been more effective than federal units in policing the republic and may be seen as providing the best guarantee, at least in the short term, that Chechnya will not explode again.

Yet, although Kadyrov may have become skilled in anti-guerrilla warfare and policing, he clearly lacks the experience, as well as the education and vision, to become an effective public administrator in a republic devastated by war and poverty and corruption.

Moscow needs to keep this in mind and develop a system of oversight that would ensure the effective spending of federal subsidies, which make up the bulk of Chechnya's budget. Moscow should also assign experienced administrators to the republic, which has seen its own cadres dispersed during the two wars, to implement systemic measures needed for reconstruction and development.

If it really wanted the republic to move toward peace and stability, Moscow would also need to empower the judicial system and encourage the development of civil society to ensure robust public oversight. But this would be a slow process and would require strong political will, which has been lacking even in more politically stable parts of the Russian Federation.

Moscow's remaining option is to continue to turn a blind eye, hoping that the newly empowered Kadyrov will meet his end of the bargain by keeping Chechnya under control and the rebels on the run by whatever means he finds effective. But these means, brutal and authoritarian, will not advance the hopes of ordinary Chechens for a safe and prosperous place to live and work.